When people think of the most graphic violent video games ever made, most point to three different games, the Grand Theft Auto series, Mortal Kombat, and Manhunt. While the first two in their own right are violent in their own, semi-cartoonish way, it is Manhunt where many people became offended by the snuff that followed in the game. Despite being about five years old, Manhunt is still cited by many as one of most graphically violent games ever created, and being a game that is so polarized in the gaming community, it is not hard to see why.
The game lets you play as James Earl Cash, a aptly named prisoner on death row who is abducted by some nefarious narrator to partake in the ultimate game of cat and mouse. Your job is to survive dark environments filled with gangs that want to kill you, and your only weapons would be plastic bags, knives, rocks, and the occasional pistol at your disposal. While the story is as adult and graphic as you can get, what sets it apart from most action games is the stealth kill sequences.
The game strives on its sneaking kills, and they are as graphic as they are almost enjoyable. In each level you need to sneak around in the shadows and trick your assailants into exposing themselves, and then you can perform executions on them from behind. These animations are extremely brutal, realistic and caused a major controversy when the game was released, and are the best part of the game hands down. There is just some degree of satisfaction for killing a psychotic man who is stalking you, primarily when you suffocate him with a plastic bag from behind.
Despite this, the game follows a simple, linear pattern. Hide in the shadows for a few minutes, make distractions, kill them off slowly, rinse and repeat. There are guns in the game, and while the gun combat becomes more prevalent in the later stages of the game, the mechanics for using them are sort of wonky for the Playstation 2 controls. Sneaking and killing from behind is much more satisfying and the mechanics for it are top notch for sure.
Unfortunately, after a while the game becomes very monotonous. The levels are linear, going from point A to B or saving X amount of people as you go through the game. The challenges during the main game have little variety, and as the game moves from stealth to gun combat, it begins to lose focus and becomes very hard to play, with some frustrating timed levels that will require almost god-like precision when it comes to shooting, something that is hard to do thanks to the shooting controls being inferior to the stealth controls.
Fortunately the extras are pretty cool. Some good scenarios and nice extras to expand the games universe are cool achievements to shoot for, but are very hard to get. Essentially, the quicker you finish a level, the more brutal your kills are, and the more stars you get for the scene. Some levels this becomes very easy, others it is all but impossible to achieve a 5 star rating, but it is definitely worth a try to go for it, and adds some replay ability to the game.
Graphically, the game is fairly detailed. Each gang has its own distinct flavor, from their weapons to their tactics and even their voice over’s and conversations. The game is dark, graphic and moody, almost a hopeless situation with a nice variety of environments, from a typical abandoned building to a zoo to an insane asylum. Sound wise the game is also top notch. While Cash is a voiceless rebel, your captive has the great Brian Cox as his voice, who provides a disturbing performance as the maniacal director who may be literally getting off on you killing various masked assailants. The sounds of death, from the footsteps and the rusltings of your plastic bag weapons to the smashing sounds of a wooden baseball bat add to the realism to an already real looking game, coupled with some decent but average slasher music gives the game a malevolent mood that only compounds thanks to the dark graphics.
So in the end, Manhunt is justifiably a bloody game and its violent reputation is justified. But it also makes a good game for a few hours of fun. Let’s face it, humans like to see and play violence, but they rarely will emulate it. Manhunt is the type of game you can play for a few hours a week, and pick it up a while later to finish off a few levels or play a minigame or two. Manhunt is a good game to play, and despite the violent reputation that precedes it, it will not make natural born killers out of everyone who plays it.
Final Score- B